Regained Territories

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Reclaimed Territories ( Polish : Ziemie Odzyskane ) is a Polish term for the eastern territories of the German Empire and the Free City of Danzig , which were handed over to the People's Republic of Poland by the Red Army at the end of World War II . The Polish government created a ministry specifically for the Reclaimed Territories ; Minister was the Deputy Prime Minister Władysław Gomułka .

The Regained Territories (yellow and gray)


In detail, the areas that were handed over to Poland from March to around August / September 1945 include the following territories :

The Prussian border mark Posen-West Prussia (the remaining areas of the provinces of Posen and West Prussia that remained with Germany in 1919 ) with an area of ​​7,695 km² was divided among its three neighboring provinces in 1938 and is included in the above figures. The total extent of the eastern areas is 114,267 km² (the difference to 114,269 km² is due to rounding), which corresponded to about a quarter of Germany within the borders of 1937.

In 1939, around 9,620,800 people lived in the eastern regions of the German Reich (45,600 of them were without German citizenship ). Of these accounted for

  • East Prussia: 2,488,100 inhabitants (including 15,100 without German citizenship),
  • Silesia : 4,592,700 inhabitants (of which 16,200 without German citizenship; figures for Zittau's population included),
  • Pomerania : 1,895,200 inhabitants (11,500 of them without German citizenship),
  • East Brandenburg : 644,800 inhabitants (2,800 of them without German citizenship).

Important cities in the former eastern regions include Breslau (1925: 614,000 inhabitants), Stettin (270,000), Hindenburg OS / Zabrze (132,000) and Gleiwitz (109,000).

Ministry for the Reclaimed Territories

The Ministry for the Reclaimed Territories (Polish Ministerstwo Ziem Odzyskanych , MOZ) was founded on November 13, 1945 by Decree No. 29. The State Repatriation Office was incorporated into it. The leader was Józef Jaroszek. The authority was initially based in Wroclaw and later in Łódź. The tasks of the MOZ were:

  • the elaboration of guidelines for state policy in the Reclaimed Areas as well as a plan for their management and the supervision of its implementation,
  • the implementation of a planned settlement operation ( repatriation in Poland after the Second World War ),
  • supplying the population with goods that meet their economic needs,
  • the administration of the formerly German assets,
  • the administration of the Recovered Territories, with the responsibility of the Minister for the Recovered Territories submitting all matters outside of these territories to which the Minister of Public Administration is responsible,
  • coordinating or stimulating the activities of the other ministers and the authorities subordinate to them in the Reclaimed Territories, with the exception of all matters falling within the remit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Shipping and Foreign Trade.

In doing so, the ministry drew on the experiences that had been made in Poland with the annexation of Poznan and parts of Upper Silesia after the First World War . Literally, Article 4 of Decree 29 states: "The legislation in force in the Poznan District Court and in the field of labor law in the Upper Silesian part of the Silesian Voivodeship will be extended to the Recovered Territories."

The ministry became the most important instrument of the state to regulate the speed and extent of migration to the formerly German areas. It was disbanded on January 21, 1949.

Development from 1947

In the course of Operation Vistula , around 150,000 Ukrainians were forcibly resettled in the Reclaimed Territories. The only criterion was their nationality . Ukrainians who were pro-communist or who had served as soldiers in the Polish People's Army were also affected. After the end of the Vistula campaign, various administrative hurdles were created to prevent the Ukrainians from returning to their traditional settlement areas. In a decree of September 27, 1947, the Ukrainians were expropriated from their old possessions. By another decree of August 28, 1949, the Greek Catholic churches became state property.


In 1948 and 1949, only 400,000 people of Polish origin settled in the Reclaimed Territories. On December 3, 1950, the second census took place after the war. 5,967,000 people lived in the Reclaimed Territories, including 3,093,700 in the countryside and 2,874,300 in cities. Almost 2.5 million came from central Poland and 1,332,000 came from the former Polish east . However, around 2.5 million fewer people lived in the reclaimed areas than in the pre-war period. The People's Republic of Poland simply lacked people to adequately settle the areas. For this reason, the move was made to refuse or make it more difficult for Germans willing to leave.

Travel ban and compulsory taxes for German employees

Avoiding the resettlement of German workers, which would have endangered the Polish economy in the Reclaimed Areas, was already specified by the Ministry for the Reclaimed Areas in a circular of January 15, 1946 and further specified in a circular of January 26, 1946. Depending on their qualifications, German employees were divided into three groups, which were made visible by the colors of the certificate issued. Group 1 with the white color were workers who had become essential for production continuity. Group 2 (blue card) consisted of employees who were not frequently represented in post-war Poland, e.g. B. Deep sea fishermen. Group 3 (red card) made up excellent specialists. In the case of the first two groups, departure was delayed as required, in the case of the last group it was prohibited for an indefinite period. To issue these certificates, the Ministry set up special offices for issuing certificates from German experts , which generally issued green certificates. Their owners could leave Poland without the consent of the aforementioned office. At the end of July 1947, the group of those employed in this way with their families comprised around 67,000 and the number of people who were called upon for the Soviet army to 45,000.

On September 19, 1946, the Ministry for the Reclaimed Areas decided that employers would have to pay 25% of the wages of German employees for the reconstruction of the Reclaimed Areas. This meant that the German employees, who were already discriminated against in post-war Poland, only had ¾ of their meager wages left. This decision was not repealed until July 1949. Furthermore, the German employees were only granted the pension entitlement that they had acquired in post-war Poland. The times they had worked for the German state were not taken into account.

Forced colonization of the regained territories

German gravestones in the Arys Memorial Cemetery

At the same time as the resettlement, the Ministry for the Reclaimed Areas started the polonization of the "reclaimed areas". The use of all non-Polish languages ​​was forbidden, as was the use of non-Polish place and person names. Polish names were given to over 11,000 villages, mountains and rivers. To fix the now official place names in the regained areas, Article 2 of the Ordinance of the President of the Republic of November 24, 1934 (Official Journal of the Republic of Poland No. 94, Item 850) - those already in the areas of Upper Silesia , West Prussia and the Province of Posen had found their application - as well as Article 2 of the decree of November 13, 1945 regarding the administration of the regained territories (Official Journal of the Republic of Poland No. 51, item 295) the legal basis. In accordance with these ordinances, the determination of official names, including their spelling and changes to them, was entrusted to the Minister for Public Administration and the Minister for the Reclaimed Areas. Most of the people affected were given a new Polish first and last name by the state. All non-Polish cultural institutions (newspapers, churches, theaters, schools and other institutions) were also closed. How rigorous and petty the procedure was may be made clear by the circular from the Ministry for the Reclaimed Territories of April 26, 1948. The letter criticizes that the traces of Germanness have not been removed everywhere and not completely. For example, German forms are still used in some offices, and there are still ashtrays with German inscriptions in some restaurants. All relics of Germanness should be removed immediately. The ban on the German language, which was now forbidden in public, was even more difficult. In fact, German was still spoken in many municipal and state offices, because power, gas and waterworks, telephone exchanges and trams could not do without German specialists at first. However, in the field of Polish orthography, the ministry was able to achieve that, contrary to the correct spelling, in the first post-war years the word “German” always had to be written in lower case , so instead of Niemiec now only Niemiec .

Catholic Church

1000 years of the Diocese of Gnesen in Kolberg: John Paul II (left) and Benedict XVI. (re.)

The Polish primate August Hlond worked in the summer of 1945 by means of an alleged "authorization" by Pope Pius XII. on German bishops and clergy to submit to the expulsion to the west together with their parishes. For example, the German bishops Maximilian Kaller of Ermland , Carl Maria Splett of Danzig and Joseph Martin Nathan , who held the office of commissioner for the Prussian part of the Archdiocese of Olomouc in Silesia , were removed from their dioceses by Hlond . Arbitrarily he appointed also in the former German dioceses administrators and demanded the selected Breslauer Capitular Ferdinand Piontek voluntary resignation ( resignation ). The Bishop of the Archdiocese of Katowice Stanisław Adamski acted in the same way when, one week after the surrender of the German Wehrmacht on May 15, 1945, he called on the Germans to leave Silesia and invoked the right to retaliate:

"It is only the realization of the principle that the Nazis so cruelly implemented in the areas of the western Polish voivodeships."

- Stanislaw Adamski

For the Primate of the Catholic Church Stefan Wyszyński it was a great joy when he in 1962 at a preliminary discussion for the Second Vatican Council in Rome, at an audience with Pope John XXIII. of this in relation to the Oder-Neisse area could hear:

"Western territories regained after centuries"

- John XXIII.

For the Primate of the Catholic Church in Poland, this was not only linked to the hope that the Pope would come to Poland's 1000th anniversary, but that the Vatican would grant ecclesiastical recognition to the measures taken by his predecessor Hlond. In the Archdiocese of Wroclaw , the Diocese of Warmia and the Free Prelature Schneidemühl , only Polish titular bishops officiated as administrators: there was a Polish bishop in Wroclaw, but no Polish bishop of Wroclaw. The Vatican granted the German Catholics so-called capitular vicars - German prelates who in Germany formed a kind of government in exile for the dioceses in the regained territories. Its practical importance was little, but it was a provocation to the Polish clergy. But these hopes were dashed when on June 21, 1963 Pope Paul VI. was chosen. On September 14, 1965, the Primate of Poland asked the Holy Father to visit Poland on May 3, 1966 on the occasion of the 1000th anniversary on Jasna Góra . But Paul VI. demanded a gesture of reconciliation with the German Catholic Church from the Polish clergy. This put the Polish clergy to the test. On September 1, 1965, the Polish Bishops' Conference on the “20th anniversary of the organization of church life in the Reclaimed Territories” declared that this earth was inseparably united with the Polish motherland. Primate Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński preached in the Wroclaw Cathedral :

“Here we were and here we are again. [...] When we see these piastic places of worship, when we listen to their language, then we know that it is not a German heritage. That is Polish soul. They were never German and are not German. "

- Stefan Wyszyński

On November 18, 1965, shortly before the end of the Second Vatican Council, Polish bishops presented their German counterparts with the famous letter in which they a. invited their German counterparts to the 1000th anniversary celebration. But the answer from the German counterparts was very cautious; there was no word on the Oder-Neisse border . Within the German Catholics, the Bensberger Kreis first dared to do this in a memorandum drawn up in 1968. With the announcement of the Episcoporum Poloniae coetus on June 28, 1972, the Vatican followed the wishes of the Polish clergy for a reorganization of the eastern dioceses. This process was concluded with the bull of Pope John Paul II : Totus Tuus Poloniae populus of March 25, 1992, which regulated the reorganization of the administrative unit of the Catholic Church in Poland. It was the largest reorganization of the Catholic Church in Poland since 1945.

Art and cultural goods

Aviation C.III has now reached Poland through border shifting

During the Polonization of the Regained Territories, numerous German cultural assets were destroyed. This includes many German cemeteries, Bismarck monuments , Kaiser Wilhelm monuments but also monuments to places of German history such as the German national monument of Bellwitzhof and other battle memorials . As a general rule, cultural assets were removed or destroyed if they only related to the German past or could not be related in any way to a Polish past. The Marienburg , which according to Polish historiography was considered a fortress of Germanness in Poland, was only restored because it was in Polish possession from 1457 to 1772. Ecclesiastical and sacred art and cultural assets were excluded from this historical perspective. The majority of the Protestant churches have been "won back" to the Catholic Church. Although the furnishings of the inventory were adapted to the Catholic liturgy, there was usually no significant interference with the architectural context. Unlike in the Soviet occupation zone , the church buildings were secured and war damage was removed. In the case of secular works of art, all those who could be assigned to the country were taken to museums and treated with care, regardless of their national classification, such as The Last Judgment by Hans Memling .

A difficult and complex chapter are the German art and cultural assets that happened to be in the Recovered Territories when they were taken over, mostly due to the war. The best example of this is the Berlinka collection ( Polish for “coming from Berlin”), also Pruski skarb (“Prussian treasure ”). After these had been moved from the Prussian State Library in Berlin to the Grüssau Monastery at the end of the Second World War , they were removed from there in the spring of 1945. For four decades they were considered a war loss, until they were revealed in Poland and announced that they were being kept in the Jagiellonian Library in Krakow . In 1965 some of the stocks were returned from Poland . The Polish Aviation Museum in Krakow also counts pieces from the former German Aviation Collection in Berlin among its treasures . The coordination office for the loss of cultural property has so far unsuccessfully requested the return to Germany. In 1991, after the end of the Cold War, negotiations between Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany were resumed: although they are artefacts that have nothing to do with the Recovered Territories or anything to do with Polish history, the return is refused. The argument from the German side that it is about looted art which, according to the Hague Land Warfare Regulations, does not belong to the legitimate possession of Poland, is countered on the Polish side with the argument that Poland becomes the legitimate owner of the cultural goods not through the war, but through a border regulation has become. In this case, it is true that one cannot speak of regained cultural assets, but rather those obtained through opportunity.

Web links

Commons : Reclaimed Territories  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Manfred Zeidler : End of the war in the east. The Red Army and the occupation of Germany east of Oder and Neisse 1944/45. Oldenbourg, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-486-56187-1 , p. 200 f.
  2. ^ Establishment of the "Ministry for the Reclaimed Areas" . In: Guido Hausmann , Dimitri Tolkatsch and Jos Stübner: (Ed.): Documents and materials on East Central European history. Topic module “Soviet Hegemony in East Central Europe (1922-1991)” , Herder Institute (Marburg) , accessed on October 18, 2019.
  3. Manfred Kittel, Horst Möller, Jirí Pesek, Oldrich Tuma: German-speaking minorities 1945: A European comparison , Munich 2006, ISBN 3-486-58002-7 , p. 168.
  4. Zbigniew Mazur: The German cultural heritage in the Polish western and northern regions (studies by the Research Center for East Central Europe at the University of Dortmund), Harrassowitz, 2003, ISBN 3-447-04800-X , p. 203.
  5. ^ Katarzyna Stoklosa: Poland and the German Ostpolitik 1945–1990. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2011, ISBN 3-525-30000-X , p. 70.
  6. ^ Franz-Josef Sehr : Professor from Poland in Beselich annually for decades . In: Yearbook for the Limburg-Weilburg district 2020 . The district committee of the district of Limburg-Weilburg, Limburg-Weilburg 2019, ISBN 3-927006-57-2 , p. 223-228 .
  7. Thomas Urban: The loss. The expulsion of the Germans and Poles in the 20th century. Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54156-9 , p. 180.
  8. See Józef Pater: The Resettlement of Lower Silesia in the Context of the New Establishment of the Diocese of Wroclaw from 1945 to 1951 . In: Cultures in Encounter. Collegium Pontes , Wrocław, Görlitz 2004, ISBN 83-7432-018-4 p. 89.
  9. Hans-Georg Grams: Our home in Hinterpommern - Eichenwalde - The people and their fate: From settlement to expulsion . Max Schick GmbH, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-9803273-2-9 , p. 281.
  10. Thomas Urban , The Loss: The Expulsion of the Germans and Poles in the 20th Century. Beck, Munich 2006, p. 178.
  11. Der Spiegel 43/1962 of October 24, 1962.
  12. Der Spiegel 50/1965 of December 8, 1965.
  13. Thomas Urban: From Krakow to Danzig: A journey through German-Polish history. Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-51082-5 , p. 130.
  14. daie Polish authorities banned the Pope's visit as well as the German bishops.
  15. Destroyed, hidden, abducted, found.
  16. Der Spiegel from August 8, 2007.


  • Halicka, Beata: Poland's Wild West. Forced migration and the cultural appropriation of the Oder region 1945–1948. Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2013, ISBN 3-506-77695-9 .
  • Manfred Zeidler : End of the war in the east. The Red Army and the occupation of Germany east of Oder and Neisse 1944/45 . Oldenbourg, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-486-56187-1 .
  • Bernd Aischmann: Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, excluding the city of Stettin. A historical perspective . 2nd Edition. Thomas Helms Verlag, Schwerin 2009, ISBN 978-3-935749-89-3 .
  • Elisabeth Ruge: Not only the stones speak German. Poland's German Eastern Territories. Langen-Müller, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-7844-2056-7 .